Choosing Accommodation at University - What to Look For (UK Edition)
Choosing the right accommodation for you is a huge part of university life. After all, you will be living there for a whole year! So it’s important to make sure that you make the right decision. To help you out, we’ve broken down what to look for when choosing your university accommodation in the UK!
Why choosing the right accommodation is important
“Your university will have a variety of accommodation to choose from”
When applying to universities, many students only focus on getting the grades, writing their personal statement, and how they’ll celebrate if they get an offer. But another big consideration after getting an offer is choosing the right accommodation. Whether you’re in a campus or city university, you will have a variety of accommodation types to choose from (keep in mind however that this is usually only offered to first year students, after that you may have to find your own place)! Here are some of the factors you need to consider when choosing your dream accommodation.
City versus campus universities
City and campus universities are extremely different when it comes to accommodation. With campus universities, finding accommodation is very straightforward. Finding places to stay in city universities like LSE, UCL or King's College London, is a little tricker, and there are a few more things to consider.
“You may be sharing your accommodation with students from other universities”
Unlike campus universities, city universities don’t necessarily own accommodation blocks. Rather, they may simply have connections with companies in the city that rent out to students, and be able to suggest these to incoming students. That is why in a city university, you may be sharing your accommodation with students from other universities too. Some accommodation providers in London are Student.com, Unite Students and Urbanest. Note: some universities like King’s only offer university-sponsored accommodation if you make it your firm choice.
All cities have their good parts and the parts you don’t want to be around at night. Especially for winters when it gets dark very early, keep in mind how you’d feel walking back alone to your accommodation after later classes.
Ok, maybe not that dramatic! But seriously, you ideally want to be in a student-area (where most of the big accommodation blocks are) or somewhere where there will always be people walking around even later in the day. Wherever you choose to live, you should feel safe. But remember, everyone else will have the same idea. Get those accommodation applications in early so you don’t miss out!
“Wherever you choose to live, you should feel safe”
If your accommodation is within walking distance of your campus, you’re officially one of the lucky ones! While most universities try to keep their accommodation close to campus (again, these will get filled up fast so apply early), they will also have accommodation further away. You may need to take the metro or bus into campus, so always make sure you are near good transport connections. This also comes in handy for travelling around or out of the city!
En-suite vs shared bathrooms
“There are upsides to both options”
We’ve all heard the nightmarish rumours of clogged toilets, wet bathroom floors and shower stalls that you don’t even want to talk about. Yep, shared bathrooms have earned a bit of a reputation! But honestly, they’re not all that bad. Having an en-suite bathroom is definitely a luxury, but by no means a necessity. Keep in mind though that these may be more expensive (especially if you’re living in a big city), and will definitely get booked up the fastest (remember that thing we said about applying early)? But believe it or not, there are upsides to both options.
Upsides of en-suites:
- An obvious perhaps - you get your own bathroom
- Not having to wait for others if there are limited facilities
- It’s as clean as you want it to be (don’t think en-suites can’t get as dirty as shared bathrooms without proper cleaning!)
Upsides of shared bathrooms (yes, upsides do exist):
- You’re not in-charge of cleaning it (they usually get cleaned everyday)
- These accommodations are much better priced
- Generally much larger (which means *cue drumroll* you may even get bathtubs)
Make sure you see which option your accommodation offers and what your budget is to decide which one to choose. Really, shared bathrooms are not that bad and many students find that they don’t mind sharing with other students! You’ll have a great time whichever option you take.
The size of your accommodation
“There’s no right or wrong choice here”
This makes more of an impact in collegiate universities like Oxford or Cambridge, but the size of your accommodation is another important factor to consider when choosing. Since larger accommodations house more students, it’s often easier to meet people and make friends. However smaller accommodations tend to have more close-knit communities, giving it more of a family feel. There’s no right or wrong choice here, choosing your size of accommodation is completely based on personal preference.
Catered vs self-catered
How good are you at cooking? If you’re ready to whip out your Master Chef apron, then a self-catered accommodation is perhaps the one for you! If you’d rather not have to worry about cooking however, and eat cooked meals in a cafeteria instead, then you’d probably enjoy a catered experience more. Self-catered accommodations have much larger kitchens shared by the people in your apartment, and include all the appliances you would need (the only thing you have to bring is your own cooking utensils). This is a great opportunity to learn how to cook, plus you can decide what and when you eat. With catered accommodation, you’ll have a range of meals to choose from, but you will have to eat during the times the kitchen serves food (making it a bit more restrictive).
“Don’t assume your classes will be in your department building”
We touched on this a bit when talking about city university accommodation, but this is also a big consideration for campus universities. On those mornings when you’ve rolled out of bed ten minutes before a lecture, you won’t want to have a long trek to class.
When looking at what accommodation your university offers, always try to choose something close to where your classes will be (tip - don’t assume your classes will be in your department building, a safer bet is to look at where the big lecture halls are). Some important places to be close to on campus are:
- Lecture halls
- Seminar buildings
- Laboratories (if you’re a science student)
- Your department
- The library (a.k.a. your new home during exam season!) or other study areas
- Cafeterias and restaurants for a quick bite to eat during study sessions
- Bus connections or interchanges
- The gym or sports facilities
- Grocery shops
While it’s obviously not possible to be close to all of these, they are some of the places to consider when thinking about the location of your accommodation.
“It’s always best to be honest”
Choosing accommodation is the last thing you’ll have to do, right? Wrong! For some universities, you can have a say in which sort of flatmates you get through personality questionnaires that match you to like-minded people. Having good flatmates can make all the difference in the world in how fast you settle into university. Some universities simply allocate students randomly, but others like Warwick or Exeter use accommodation questionnaires to match students. Answering (somewhat) honestly in these questionnaires is key! They’ll ask things like how early you wake up and go to sleep, if you prefer a quiet accommodation, some hobbies etc., and then match you to other students with similar responses. Here are some of our tips for answering these:
- It’s always best to be honest - if you’re a late-riser but say you wake up at 7am everyday, don’t be surprised if you are woken up from your sleep by people who actually wake up at that time!
- The ‘somewhat’ honest part applies in how early you say you go to sleep - putting a time slightly earlier than when you actually sleep could save you from the all-night party-goers the night before an exam
- When choosing your hobbies, choose a variety of different types so you’re most likely to find flatmates with similar ones to you
- Unless you really do prefer quiet accommodations, try not to choose this option if given to you - it’s much harder to make friends in these!
“Do your research and apply early”
Now you know exactly what to look for in university accommodation! Remember, our biggest tip is to do your research and apply early. At the end of the day, your flatmates and friends are the ones who really define your university experience, so don’t worry too much if you don’t get the accommodation of your choice.